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Martin Dressler: The tale of an American Dreamer, by Steven Millhauser *** (of 4)

The title character, Martin Dressler, is the son of German immigrants in New York City who’s dreams and successes coincide with the burgeoning of the city from sheep meadow to incomparable metropolis at the beginning of the 19th century. In many ways the most interesting character of the book is the description of architectural eclecticism personified in hotels that simultaneously embody every new invention – electricity, steam, skyscraping fortitude – and retain the comfort of the old, staid plans of European majesty: candelabras (with electric lights), marble floors, heavy drapes. Martin succeeds until he threatens God with his final hotel, the Grand Cosmo. Millhauser won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. October 2006.